National Writing Project

Reflecting On and Teaching About Haiti

By: Sharon J. Washington
Date: January 22, 2010

Summary: A special message from NWP Executive Director Sharon J. Washington, including links to resources that support teaching and learning about Haiti.


"Words have no borders. Every experience deserves a hearing. Everyone has a story to tell and we are all the better for the telling."

This quote comes from Edwidge Danticat, the award-winning Haitian author, in her powerful essay "In the Snow," which was the opening piece in Words Have No Borders: Student Voices on Immigration, Language and Culture, published by the College Board's National Commission on Writing in collaboration with the NWP.

I find her words inspiring, never more so than now as we must find ways to reach out and support the people of Haiti. All of us in the NWP network have been moved by the magnitude of the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti and the ongoing rescue and relief efforts that are underway to help the Haitian people.

Many teachers are considering how to respond to students' questions and concerns in class, and several resources have been developed that teachers are finding valuable in teaching about the earthquake. Links to a few of those resources are listed below.

What This Means in the Classroom

In order to discuss what this means in the classroom, the Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) webcast featured Katherine Shulten, one of the editors of the Learning Network blog at the New York Times, Wednesday, January 20, to discuss the teaching materials available on the Times website. Read Gail Desler's blog reflecting on the broadcast .

Across the network, I know that we are engaged in gathering donations and contributing to these many efforts. We also know that a serious and lengthy reconstruction process lies ahead. For more information about where you can contribute, we encourage you to visit Haiti Earthquake Relief .

Let us join together and find ways to support all people's stories and their futures.

Sharon J. Washington
Executive Director

Teaching About Haiti

5 Ways to Teach About Haiti Right Now
The Learning Network of the New York Times posts five easy ways to use the Times to teach about what's happening in Haiti as the story continues to unfold.

The New York Times Earthquake Multimedia Collection
Videos, photographs, and interactive features documenting the desperation in Haiti after a powerful earthquake devastated the country on January 12.

Haiti in Ink and Tears: A Literary Sampler
The Haitian world is not all suffering; it is full of treasure. Here are a few of the many voices, native and not, inspired by Haiti.

PBS Teachers — Resources for the Classroom
PBS NewsHour educational resources for exploring the earthquake in Haiti.

Teaching for Change
This website about building social justice starting in the classroom helps students gain a deeper understanding of the history and the roots of poverty in Haiti.

Teachers Without Borders Resources
Resources for teachers, including Earthquake Education Curriculum: A Teacher's Guide to Earthquake Science & Safety.

National Education Association Lesson Plans
NEA HIN and NEA encourage teachers to use these resources to talk with students about the earthquake in Haiti with a "facts not fear" approach.

It Happened Over There: Understanding and Empathy Through Children's Books
Reading Rockets helps parents and teachers address the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti through reading and books.

Windows to the World — A Quick Look at Haiti
Picture books, chapter books, informational texts, and websites recommended for students.

Haiti: 360
A 360-degree view of a recent drive through Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Viewers can pause and explore at any time by pressing the play/pause button under the video

Teachable Moments – Earthquakes
The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology present teachable moments about the science of the Haiti earthquakes.

Association for Citizenship Teaching
Facts, questions, and activities about the history and economy of Haiti.

Use these resources to teach the history and geography of Haiti, to explain earthquakes, and to discuss the resulting crises with your class.

Earthquake Topics – Lessons Online
A list of online resources about earthquakes collected by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Colorin Colorado resources
Tips for school personnel, crisis resources for school personnel, educational resources, and resources on how to help children after disasters.

Related Resources by Writing Project Teachers and Their Students

Post-Tsunami Storytelling in Indonesia, by Katherine Schultz
Schultz was invited to Indonesia to mentor new teachers hired to replace those who perished in the tsunami-devastated province of Aceh. The Indonesian teachers left with new visions of child-centered teaching and learning.

Writing to Build Community in a Time of Stress, by Sarah Robbins
Robbins describes the work of the program Keeping and Creating American Communities (KCAC), and the writing assignments that a group of middle and high school teachers developed after September 11.

Katrina: In Their Own Words
This collection of essays, poems, and songs published by the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project captures the turmoil surrounding hurricane Katrina. The work includes pieces by local teachers and students.

Gulf Coast Sites Steadily Rebuilding, by Ann Dobie
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi, with their facilities damaged and their members scattered across the country, members of three writing project sites revive their communities and their programs—and use writing in the healing process.

Giving Children a Voice and Venue After 9/11, by Rus VanWestervelt
Inspired to capture moments and reflections that could be lost forever, VanWestervelt launched the 9/11 Project, which received over 200 student submissions for inclusion in the book September Eleven: Maryland Voices.

Reflections on September 11, by Audrey Clarkin
A student writer reflects on how "this unforgettable moment changed the lives of many people, all people, even me."

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